Symptoms, Transmission, Treatment and Testing
COVID-19 can spread quickly in our communities. Follow these steps to take care of yourself and protect others.
If you believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolating will help stop the spread of the virus.
- You must self isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive for the virus
- You may need to self-isolate if you live with someone who has COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms
- You do not need to isolate, but must self-monitor for symptoms and take all necessary precautions if you've been exposed to someone from another household with symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test result
Individuals who live, work, volunteer or are admitted to any of the highest risk settings must follow the steps outlined by the Ministry of Health
What to do if you test positive for COVID-19:
- If you test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), immediately self-isolate for a minimum of five days and complete the COVID-19 self-assessment for more detailed instructions:
- If you test positive for COVID-19, you may receive a COVID-19 text notification from York Region with a secure link to complete a personal COVID-19 assessment form
- If you test positive on a rapid antigen test (RAT), you do not need a confirmatory PCR test to confirm you are positive
*Non-household close contact is someone who was within 2-metres of you for at least 15 minutes or for multiple short periods of time without appropriate measures such as masking and distancing.
Close contact or recently recovering from COVID-19:
- If you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, wear a mask in public spaces for 10 days after your last exposure to the individual
- If you are recovering from COVID-19 or had symptoms of COVID-19, wear a mask in public spaces for five days (or 10 days if you are immunocompromised) after your isolation period ends
- Avoid activities where you need to take off your mask, such as dining out
- Do not visit or work in any highest risk setting
- Do not visit anyone who is at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors, people who are immunocompromised)
COVID-19 clinical assessments
A clinical assessment centre can test, assess and provide treatment options for COVID-19. You should visit one if you have symptoms and:
- Are at higher risk for COVID-19 and need to get tested and assessed for treatment (including antiviral treatment)
- Have been directed by your primary care provider
You do not need to have a positive test result to visit. You should bring a list of your medications and a list of any important medical conditions.
Testing for COVID-19
Who is eligible for a PCR test?
Publicly-funded molecular or PCR testing is only available for select groups as considered high-risk and/or prioritized by the Ministry of Health. Members of the general public with mild COVID-19 symptoms are asked not to seek testing.
If you have symptoms but are not eligible for testing, assume you have COVID-19 and follow the steps for what to do if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19.
If you have questions related to testing eligibility and isolation guidelines, please call the Provincial Testing and Isolation Information Line at 1-888-777-0730, available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Sunday.
Where to get a PCR test?
PCR testing is available for eligible individuals only by appointment at local COVID-19 Assessment Centre.
Please do not attend a hospital emergency department for testing.
Please check each Assessment Centre website to confirm current eligibility, availability, hours and location:
- Oak Valley Health (Markham-Stouffville Hospital)
- Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital
- Southlake Regional Health Centre (Newmarket)
- Carefirst COVID-19 Test Centre (Markham)
Rapid Antigen Testing
Participating grocery and pharmacy locations offer free rapid antigen testing kits to the general public for at-home use to help detect COVID-19 earlier and stop the spread of the virus.
A list of participating retailers can be found at ontario.ca/rapidtest
Workplaces and other settings may use RAT for screening or work self-isolation purposes.
If your test result is positive, you are required to:
- Self-isolate immediately
- Inform all of your household members and close contacts as soon as possible:
- You do not need a confirmatory PCR test to confirm you are positive
York Region residents who recently tested positive on a rapid antigen test are invited to complete a short survey. Information collected in this Rapid Antigen Test Survey will assist in understanding how COVID-19 is circulating in our community.
If your rapid antigen test result is negative, you do not need to isolate if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19. Continue to self-monitor yourself and stay home if you become sick.
Learn more about rapid antigen tests, including when it is recommended that you use one.
Testing Positive for COVID-19 Instructions
Below you will find directions on how to self-isolate and what instructions to provide your close contacts about their need to also self-isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may receive a call from York Region Public Health to inform you of the positive test result or to inform you that you are a close contact of someone who tested positive. York Region Public Health may also reach out to you in these scenarios via text message with a secure link to complete a personal COVID-19 assessment form.
If York Region Public Health calls you:
- You may be asked to confirm your identity with your full name, address, Ontario health card number and date of birth before discussing personal health information
- A York Region phone number will show up on your phone but sometimes the call will be from a private number. If you are uncomfortable answering a call from a private number, we will leave a voicemail, with a phone number, extension and a reference number
- You will never be asked to provide your SIN number, or for money/credit card information
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has developed tips to help protect you from scammers. If you suspect that you may be the victim of a scam or fraud or have been tricked into giving personal or financial information, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.
How To Get Your PCR Test Results
The Ontario government online test results portal offers secure access to test results on your computer or mobile device. Test results will be available in 1 to 6 days after your test.
Please note: the test results portal does not work with Internet Explorer or iOS 11 and older. You might also need to disconnect from your corporate network or virtual private network (VPN).
You can also check your results through the secure portal if you were tested at one of the following emergency departments or COVID-19 Assessment Centres:
York Region Public Health will only contact individuals related to a high-risk case if you receive a positive result for COVID-19 from a York Region emergency department, COVID-19 Assessment Centre, or pharmacy.
York Region Public Health does not provide testing for COVID-19.
Residents recently tested for COVID-19 or close contacts of someone identified as positive may receive a text message from the Ministry of Health with a secure link to complete a personal assessment form. All information collected is kept confidential and protected by Ontario’s strict privacy laws and will only be used for public health purposes.
The form is voluntary and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Residents can opt out by texting the word “STOP”. This tool will add another level of support for our residents and enhance York Region Public Health’s ability to follow up on all high-risk cases.
The symptoms listed on the provincial COVID-19 self-assessment tool include the most common symptoms of COVID-19. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Fever (a temperature of 37.8 degrees Celsius or higher) and/or chills
- Cough, including a barking cough or croup (continuous, more than usual, making a whistling noise when breathing)
- Shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
- Decrease or loss of taste or smell
- For children under 18 years of age: nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
- For adults over 18 years of age: muscle aches, joint pain and/or extreme tiredness
Other symptoms of COVID-19 include sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, abdominal pain, headache, pink eye or lack of appetite.
When assessing for any symptoms, the focus should be on evaluating if they are new, worsening, or different from an individual’s usual state. Symptoms should not be chronic or related to other known causes or conditions.
If you have any severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, call 911
Complications from COVID-19 can include serious conditions, like pneumonia, and in some cases, death.
Your risk of severe disease may be higher if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case for:
- People over 70 years of age
- People who are immunocompromised or those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart, renal or chronic lung disease
Additional Information on COVID-19 symptoms and children, including screening guidance, testing options, and when to stay home from school or child care is available on the Staying Safe at School page.
How COVID-19 Spreads - Transmission
COVID-19 transmission occurs through large respiratory droplets and smaller droplets called aerosols depending on multiple factors including:
- Forceful expulsion of respiratory droplets (e.g. singing, shouting, exercising, coughing, sneezing)
- Amount of virus present (e.g. more virus is present early in an individual’s infection)
- Type of contact (e.g. longer and closer contact with an infectious person is associated with higher risk)
- Environmental conditions (e.g. being outdoors and good ventilation are associated with lower risk)
- Personal protective measures (e.g. physical distancing, wearing a well-fitted mask and being vaccinated reduce the risk)
Under certain factors aerosols can remain suspended in the air for some time and play a role in transmission at longer distances.
Wearing a well fitted mask, physical distancing and being outdoors or in well-ventilated indoor spaces all reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 droplet and aerosol transmission.
The highest risk for transmission still remains close prolonged contact (generally less than 2 metres) with an infected individual.
While our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transmission has evolved, the key prevention measures have not changed. What we have learned is a combination of measures is the most effective way to prevent transmission.
Households have the highest risk of transmission from a case:
- Household members should follow the self-isolation guidance at Ontario.ca/exposed and york.ca/COVID19Positive for instructions on who needs to self-isolate and for how long
- There are additional supports available for York Region residents who may otherwise be unable to safely self-isolate at the COVID-19 Voluntary Isolation Centre
Contact tracing aims to interrupt the spread of disease between an infected person and the ring of close contacts around them.
Close contacts include people you live with, have had intimate relationships with or people who have cared for you or you have cared for (for example, with bathing, feeding or dressing), people that you have visited with, spent time with at school, work, or have come into your home.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms:
- Contact everyone you have been in close contact with during the following time period: two days before your symptoms started until when you started self-isolating
- There are different isolation requirements for household close contacts and non-household close contacts depending on your circumstances. For more information, go to Ontario.ca/exposed and york.ca/COVID19Positive
- If you have the COVID Alert app, you will get a unique one time key from the Test Results Website that will help notify others
Antiviral treatments are now available for free by prescription to treat adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at a higher risk of progressing to serious disease, including hospitalization or death. Antiviral treatments must be taken immediately within the first five to seven days (depending on the treatment) of symptom onset
A screener tool is available to help determine if you are at higher risk and should be assessed for treatment. A positive rapid antigen test, PCR or rapid molecular test is required as part of the assessment for antiviral treatment.
If you have symptoms and are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, seek testing and care immediately by either:
- Visiting a clinical assessment centre (where you can get tested, assessed, and provided treatment or a prescription)
- Contacting a primary care provider (for example, your family doctor)
Find out more about antiviral treatment options or talk to your health care provider to learn more.
Available Antiviral Medications
Paxlovid is an antiviral medication that can be taken by mouth at home and must be taken within five days of symptoms starting.
Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that must be taken intravenously (IV) at a designated clinic.
Remdesivir must be taken within seven days of the start of symptoms.
- All COVID-19 Resources
- Droplet vs. Airborne Transmission (Information Material)
- What is a Close Contact? (Signage)
- COVID-19 school and child care screening
- COVID-19 customer screening